Illustrations: Amélie Poncety
Direction: Take Off Productions
Since the beginning of 2016, the blueFACTORY site in Fribourg has hosted the smart living lab, which will see the construction of its own building in 2020. Awaiting the final building, research teams have their offices in the blueFACTORY’s Blue Hall. The vanguard building that is currently being designed by the researchers will be sustainable and constantly evolving, comprising laboratories, classrooms, and offices for over one hundred researchers. In the context of multifunctionality, the building itself will become an object of study in the quest for solutions to reduce power consumption and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to define the preliminary project, an Architecture Competition with Open Dialogue (MEP) was set up. After an open call for applications, the smart living lab will undertake the study teams selection. For the following steps, a majority-independent board of experts will be in charge of the projects evaluation. The procedure includes a number of intermediary steps in attendance of the board of experts, the selected teams, research managers and internal specialists.
A building in line with Switzerland’s environmental objectives
The Swiss Federal Council has affirmed its commitment to moving towards a 2000-watt society by 2150, with an intermediary objective of 3500 watts by 2050. To help the smart living lab's building meet this objective, an interdisciplinary research program has been set up, funded by the Canton of Fribourg and EPFL. Headed by the Building 2050 research group, about thirty researchers from EPFL, the HEIA-FR, and UNIFR have been involved in the passionate mission of designing a model building for the future.
Focusing on questions related to energy, comfort, and architectural quality, the researchers have identified their main axes of inquiry:
- The user, for whom the building is designed
- The building’s envelope
- In situ energy production and transformation
- Energy storage
- The link with mobility
The building of the smart living lab, a true center of excellence integrated into the heart of the city and sensitive to societal developments, will give researchers a 30-year head start in experimenting with tomorrow’s lifestyle.
An international workshop in Gruyères
Concrete actions are being carried out to ensure that preliminary research results effectively find their way into the conception and construction of the smart living building. The research group is going out of its way to confront the results of its investigations with on-the-ground reality. To do so, they are organizing events that stimulate personal meetings and debates with building experts. On October 5 and 6, a palette of international experts from academia and private industry met with about twenty members of the smart living lab in Gruyères on the topic of research that will lead to the construction of the building.
The main objective of the workshop was to validate and consolidate the outcome of the preceding 18 months of work through the input of the international scientific community, before transitioning to the operational phase.
Analysis of research
The multidisciplinary teams of experts zeroed in on the Building 2050 research axes, namely:
- A methodology to provide design assistance, while managing a limited carbon and energy budget
- A investigation into perceived comfort in various facade composition scenarios (thermal inertia, lighting, ventilation)
- The optimization of the ratio between available green energy and a building’s energy demand
- A limit on the amount of material to be used to set up the workplaces
- The establishment of a decision-making process for this type of experimental project
Recommendations for the future of the program
The experts insisted on the importance of placing the user at the center of all decisions pertaining to the building, while providing a simple decision-making process. Rather than increasing the density of office spaces, they recommended specializing spaces according to the types of activities they would host. Offices in the smart living lab will let researchers carry out innovative research insofar that they are flexible and adaptable.
Overall, the experts commended the originality and the comprehensiveness of the research and helped cast a light on other complementary axes of research
These research efforts, enhanced by the outcome of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 workshops and that bring together professionals and international experts in the construction sector, have defined the specifications for the future designers of the building. In 2017, the project entered its operational phase, which involved further defining the project specifications. The call for tenders will be launched in spring 2018 and the building's construction is expected to start in 2020.